Feeling very unwell for the past few days, I gave way to self indulgence in food and sleep. Jesus has made it very clear to me that this has not pleased Him: “I have sent you this suffering that you may suffer more, not that you should try to avoid it”. He made me put on the chain again and promise Him, as long as I can hold out, not to take extra sleep etc. Great peace and contentment is the result.
COMMENT: This diary entry, written on this day in 1915, might seem a little strange. The first thing to remember is that Fr Doyle was something of a mystic, and he understood himself to be in a constant dialogue with the Lord. He had a sense that God often spoke to him in his soul; his diaries record several locutions wherein he perceived God to be speaking directly to him. Such experiences are not rare in the lives of the saints.
We find the idea of welcoming suffering to be strange today, and in particular the idea that God may want us, in some circumstances, to suffer. But saints and mystics frequently wrote about their calling as “victims” of reparation for sin. As St Paul says, we make up in out lives what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. In other words, by our suffering we join ourselves to the Passion of Christ and obtain many graces for others. To take just one example, St Faustina records in her diary how spiritually valuable suffering can be, and says that we will only realise its value when we die, at which point it will be too late and we will no longer be able to obtain merit for our sufferings.
Perhaps one lesson the rest of us can draw from Fr Doyle’s quote today is that when sufferings come – and it’s inevitable that they will come to us sometimes, if not in fact everyday – we should offer them to the Lord, and see to gain spiritually from the experience. We can can legitimately seek to reduce our sufferings, especially during illnesses etc, it is often those who accept them who have the peace and contentment that Fr Doyle speaks of today.
As part of the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises, retreatants meditate on the early life of Christ. One of these meditations is on the Nativity. Here is the text of St Ignatius:
THE SECOND CONTEMPLATION IS ON THE NATIVITY
Prayer. The usual Preparatory Prayer.
First Prelude. The first Prelude is the narrative and it will be here how Our Lady went forth from Nazareth, about nine months with child, as can be piously meditated, seated on an ass, and accompanied by Joseph and a maid, taking an ox, to go to Bethlehem to pay the tribute which Caesar imposed on all those lands.
Second Prelude. The second, a composition, seeing the place. It will be here to see with the sight of the imagination the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem; considering the length and the breadth, and whether such road is level or through valleys or over hills; likewise looking at the place or cave of the Nativity, how large, how small, how low, how high, and how it was prepared.
Third Prelude. The third will be the same, and in the same form, as in the preceding Contemplation.
First Point. The first Point is to see the persons; that is, to see Our Lady and Joseph and the maid, and, after His Birth, the Child Jesus, I making myself a poor creature and a wretch of an unworthy slave, looking at them and serving them in their needs, with all possible respect and reverence, as if I found myself present; and then to reflect on myself in order to draw some profit.
Second Point. The second, to look, mark and contemplate what they are saying, and, reflecting on myself, to draw some profit.
Third Point. The third, to look and consider what they are doing, as going a journey and laboring, that the Lord may be born in the greatest poverty; and as a termination of so many labors–of hunger, of thirst, of heat and of cold, of injuries and affronts–that He may die on the Cross; and all this for me: then reflecting, to draw some spiritual profit.
Colloquy. I will finish with a Colloquy as in the preceding Contemplation, and with an Our Father.
Here are Fr Doyle’s notes on this meditation:
What impressed me most in the meditation on the Nativity was the thought that Jesus could have been born in wealth and luxury, or at least with the ordinary comforts of life, but He chose all that was hard, unpleasant and uncomfortable.
This He did for me, to show me the life I must lead for Him. If I want to be with Christ, I must lead the life of Christ, and in that life there was little of what was pleasing to nature. I think I have been following Christ, yet how pleasant and comfortable my life has always been ever avoiding cold, hunger, hard work, disagreeable things, humiliations, etc. My Jesus, You are speaking to my heart
now. I cannot mistake Your voice or hide from myself what You want from me and what my future life should be. Help me for I am weak and cowardly.
By entering religion and taking my vows I have given myself over absolutely to God and His service. He, therefore, has a right to be served in the way He wishes. If thenHe asks me to enter on a hard, mortified life and spend myself working for Him, how can I resist His will and desire? “Oh my God, make me a saint, and I consent to suffer all You ask for the rest of my life.” What is God asking from me now? Shall I go back on that offering?
COMMENT: To be a saint does not necessarily mean that we must consciously deny ourselves ALL lawful pleasures and to ALWAYS seek hard and disagreeable things. However, it is also true that there are some who were called to walk that path, and Fr Doyle was one of them. At the very least, we must be open to what God wants, and detached from our own will in these matters. That is of course easier said than done. However, we will receive the grace we need if we seek the help of Mary and St Joseph, who willingly shared the deprivation and hardship of the baby Jesus in order to fulfil their own vocation.
A second point to consider today is that Christ voluntarily chose to be born in poverty. He chose to make Himself like us in all things but sin. There is no hardship or problem that Jesus does not understand.